Mesa: Issues and Challenges
Lack of affordable housing and poor air quality are some key issues and challenges being tackled by the leaders in the city of Mesa, Arizona. These and other findings are outlined below.
Lack of Affordable Housing
- One challenge faced by the city of Mesa is the lack of affordable housing. A big percentage of the population in Mesa is low income and in need of low-cost housing. The city leaders are increasingly tackling the issue of housing affordability to also be able to accommodate new residents coming into the city.
- According to population projections, the city needs "an average of nearly 2,700 new housing units per year for the next decade to accommodate new residents." This is a target that can be met with proper planning as records show that the city of Mesa issued "2,000 permits just for single-family homes in 2016."
- According to Zillow, the median value of homes in Mesa is $272,546, which went "up 7.6% over the past year and is predicted to rise 5.2% within the next year." The median rent is $1,385 a month, lower than the metro-area median of $1,545. Although the median rent is lower than the metro-area median, it is expected that many Mesa residents will continue to struggle to afford housing due to underlying economic conditions and household incomes that are lagging.
- According to East Valley Tribune, over 81,000 residents, more than 17.2% of the Mesa's population, were living in poverty. Mesa also has low numbers of residents with college degrees and workers in higher-paying industries, compared to its neighboring cities. Mesa also "had a higher percentage of renter-occupied units of 41.6%, than neighboring cities, with more than a fifth of the city’s single-family homes occupied by renters."
- Mesa is working to address its economic problems by attracting high-end employers and attracting universities to the city, which has led to continual growth in upscale housing options. With the private sector meeting housing needs for executives and middle-income employees, the city government is left to fill the housing gaps for low-income workers.
- The Mesa city government is also working with nonprofits and using federal grants to build a housing safety net. The city government has used federal tax credits to finance housing projects with subsidized lower rents such as the La Mesita apartments and downtown senior housing. Mesa is also using innovative zoning patterns to try to solve the affordable housing challenge.
- To increase housing opportunities in Mesa, the city government provides those who are homeless with application fees and assistance to pay utilities. Mesa also gives incentives to landlords so that they can assist housing assistance participants.
- The major stakeholders involved in tackling the challenge of the affordability of housing in Mesa include city leaders, landlords, the private sector, nonprofits, along with city real estate developers.
- The City of Mesa’s Public Housing Authority works with residents and landlords to administer several rental assistance programs such as the Housing Choice Voucher program.
A Question to City Leaders
- What is the city doing to boost the household income levels of the Mesa population living in poverty to help them be able to access affordable housing?
Poor Air Quality
- Leaders in the city of Mesa are tackling the challenge of air pollution, especially dust pollution. This has affected the quality of air in the city. According to the city's website, carbon monoxide levels are problematic during cooler months, while the ozone continues to cause problems in warmer months.
- In 2019, the Fitness Index evaluated the 100 largest cities in America using indicators such as health behavior and air quality. Mesa ranked among the 10 worst cities for air quality. The city and all the others that were evaluated "average just 62% of the year with good air quality."
- Air pollution is a big problem for residents in Mesa. The American Lung Association ranks Mesa city among the most polluted cities in the United States. In the State of the Air City Rankings, Mesa city has been ranked as the seventh most polluted city by ozone and the 13th most polluted city by short-term particle pollution.
- The issue is important to the community because when the dust is inhaled, it forces the lungs and heart to work harder to circulate oxygen throughout the body. This can reduce people's ability to breathe and damage their hearts. This is especially serious in old people, those with underlying respiratory issues, and children.
- According to Quartz, many health problems, such as lung cancer, asthma, developmental delays in children, and premature deaths, are linked to ozone pollution, such as the one in the city of Mesa.
- Leaders in the city of Mesa have taken measures to reduce dust pollution. This includes identifying and enforcing control measures in locations that are known to contribute to pollution. The city also provides information to residents on how to protect themselves and minimize the problem. This includes information such as not parking or driving on unpaved roads unless it is very necessary and not blowing dirt into the streets.
- The city leaders also enforce a "No Burn Day" that bans residents from wood-burning activity, such as fireplaces or open outdoor fires, for 24 hours, when the forecast suggests "air quality will approach or exceed the federal health standard." The ban stops residents from adding pollution to the air when the conditions are already bad.
- The City of Mesa has also enacted a law that requires construction sites and others involved in dust-generating work, such as road works, to take care not to pollute the air.
- The major stakeholders involved in tackling the challenge of air pollution in Mesa include city leaders, city inspectors, residents, construction companies, and the Maricopa County Air Quality Department. Mesa city works with the Maricopa County Air Quality Department to enforce the dust pollution control measures.
- The city of Mesa sends city inspectors to investigate pollution reports from Mesa residents and works with building site developers and owners to fix any issues that have been identified.
A Question to City Leaders
- The American Lung Association has ranked Mesa city as the seventh most polluted city by ozone and the 13th most polluted city by short-term particle pollution. What measures have you put in place to solve the problem?